Mumbaikars miffed as prices of fruits, vegetables soar

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Mumbai, July 13: The prices of most vegetables and fruits crossed Rs 100 a kg on Wednesday coupled with severe shortages and poor quality as a strike by commission agents crippled wholesale and retail markets.

Virtually no vegetable of daily use was available for less than Rs 100 - or more than four times the regular rates - as supplies to the wholesale markets of Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) at Vashi in Navi Mumbai dropped to a trickle on the third day of the indefinite strike.

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Leading activist Mohan Gurnani, a former president of the powerful Federation of Associations of Maharashtra (FAM), said that against the daily average of 600 trucks, the supplies had fallen to less than 10 percent - or around 50 trucks a day since Tuesday.

"The agents have been left with no option. Though the strike has hit the farmers, commission agents (arhatiyas), retailers and consumers, the government move would actually benefit the big companies engaged in agro-marketing," Gurnani said.

The Maharashtra government promulgated an Ordinance on Tuesday amending the APMC Act, 1963, deregulating vegetables and fruits, to enable farmers get better remuneration and consumers cheaper produce.

Simultaneously, the government made efforts to procure adequate supplies from different parts of the state to cater to the demand in Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai and other areas where prices have hit the roof.

Associations of hoteliers and restaurants toyed with the idea of dropping most vegetables from their menus if the situation failed to improve soon.

Non-vegetarians too were hit hard as prices of chicken, mutton, fish and eggs shot up: eggs from Rs 50 to Rs 100 a dozen.

The representatives of commission agents have been called for a meeting by the government in an effort to sort out their grievances, mainly pertaining to the move to stop them charging eight percent commission from farmers.

Since commission is the only source of their earnings, the 'arhatiyas' and wholesalers have gone on a protest strike.

In some parts of Mumbai, tomatoes sold at Rs 180 a kg, cucumber and brinjals at Rs 120 a kg, capsicum at Rs 110 a kg, and cauliflowers and cabbages at Rs 150 a kg.

IANS

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